Fishugh and Neely by John L. Neel

After Jump School, I was shipped to the 82nd Airborne.   At the Depot, I was assigned to the 2nd Battalion of the 505 Parachute Infantry.   Once at the battalion Personnel Admin Center (PAC), I was told that I would be in Charlie Company.   I reported to Charlie Company Orderly Room and to the Operations Sergeant who filled out my data card, took copies of my orders, and filed my Jump Log.   Since I was married, I was told to take the rest of the day off and to report the next morning at 0800 , in Fatigues, to the Company Formation Area.

The next morning I met my First Sergeant (1SG), Alfred H.   Gainey.

Our 1SG had fought in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.   No one fucked with the man and we looked on him as a god.   He taught us everything and was a fantastic leader and warrior...but he was funny and cool, laid back, and fair.   He was my first mentor and he taught me more than any other person in the Army.

There were only five people at formation, the Operations Sergeant Brown, the Supply Sergeant Charlie Johnson, the Armorer SP-4 Tony Panasera, another new guy, and me.   The entire battalion was in West point training the new cadets all summer.   The First Sergeant Marched out of the Orderly Room, clipboard in hand, and called us to attention. 

He called the roll.

Brownie! Here First Sergeant!

CharlieJohnson (one word)! Here First Sergeant!

Pansera! Here First Sergeant!

Fis-Hugh! Silence.   Fis-HUGH! Silence.

For the first time, 1SG Gainey looked up from the clipboard and looked in the direction of the two new guys.   I did not know what in the world I should do, but I knew I wasn't Fishugh.

The other guy, who looked about my age and looked as confused as I probably looked, finally spoke up, "That's pronounced Fis-Cuss, First Sergeant." 1SG Gainey stared a hole in poor Fiscus's forehead for what seemed like an eternity.   Finally, he went back to his clipboard and boomed in the loudest voice I ever heard, "FIS-HUGH!!"

Fiscus, yelled, "HERE FIRST SERGEANT!"

Back to his former rhythm, 1SG Gainey called out, "NEELY!"

Here First Sergeant!

I'm slow sometimes but I am not stupid.

Here began a friendship that has lasted since 1976, Privates "Fishugh" and "Neely" had been given their Paratrooper Names by a legend in the 82nd community.   Steve Fiscus was my first Army Buddy.   He came from Texas and was proud of it.   He was the best natural-born athlete I have ever met.   I saw him make unbelievable plays in every sport we played.   He got out of the army after his first tour, became a master machinist, and married a great lady back in Texas.

That first few days we spent doing more administrative things like gear issue at the Central Issue Facility, rifle and protective mask assignment, and unit items issue.   Of course, we did a lot of cleaning.   We cleaned the orderly room, the Ops Room, and lots of weapons.   We sorted out the Supply Room and the Chemical Room.   We helped Tony carry weapons across Gruber Road to 782nd maintenance.

Since the Battalion was gone, Top, as we called him, sent us both to schools.   First was Driver School where we learned to operate and maintain the Jeep, Gama Goat, Mule, 2 1/2-Ton Truck and 5-Ton Truck.   Next, we went to the Dragon Gunners Course and then to the Unit Armorer's Course.   For the Armorer's Course, Steve and I were authorized to carry M16 rifles, M203 grenade launchers, M60 Machine Guns, 81mm Mortars, and the M2HB machine gun in our private vehicles.   It was crazy.

Steve and I both graduated at the top of our courses...which helped us establish ourselves as Good Troopers.   When the Company came back from West Point, we were assigned to platoons, me to Third, with extra duty as Company Commander's Driver and Company XO Driver.   I drove the CO, CPT Bill McLaughlin, and Steve drove the XO, 1LT Bill Epley.   Here Fiscus and I made names for ourselves by keeping the old jeeps running, being on time, and passing every inspection for maintenance and accountability.

It is easy to see, then, why 1SG Gainey started mixing us up.   Before long, he was calling me Fishugh and Steve was Neely.   Knowing Top, he probably did this on purpose...for fun.   This mix up came to a humorous head one night on exercise.

We were training out at Camp McCall, about forty miles away from Ft.   Bragg.   It was winter and an unexpected ice storm hit us out of nowhere.   We were ordered, for the first and only time, to set up pup tents.   We always carried around a shelter half, five tent pegs, three tent poles, and a tent rope so we could pair up and build a tent if needed.   I hadn't used mine since basic training...maybe AIT.   Steve and were told to pair up for a tent, get out our sleeping bags and air mattresses, get in our tent and wait out the storm, which we happily did.   We barely made it.   The storm hit us hard, putting about 3 inches of ice on everything that night.

About midnight, Steve and I heard the 1SG calling out, "Neely, Come Here!" Cursing, I scrambled to get out of my sleeping bag, put on my boots, grabbed my rifle and helmet, and left Fiscus laughing at me as I slugged through the ice to Top's tent.   I followed the sound of the 1SG's voice (still calling for Neely) and stuck my head in his tent.   A soon as he saw me he said, "I don't want YOU Fishugh, I want Neely."

Roger Top! I ran back to the tent, slipping and sliding, stuck my head in the flap and said, "Top doesn't want Fishugh, he wants YOU, NEELY!"

Poor Steve had to drive all night in the nastiness weather, in a Jeep with no top or doors, because, sometime during the night, a member of the company hurt himself and had to go back to Womack Hospital.   For some reason, they made him drive to Bragg and then turn right around and drive right back out to Camp McCall, 80 miles in an ice storm.   It is a wonder Steve survived.

Steve held this against me for a long time, but it wasn't my fault.   The 1SG knew who he wanted and, at the time, I didn't know it was a driving mission.   It never dawned on either of us that it would mean driving in that shit.

Ah, but Fishugh got his revenge.   During another FTX, I was tasked to carry the radio for our artillery Forward Area Observer since his RTO was ill.   I didn't mind.   This was just another opportunity to learn and practice my skills.   BUT! I got diarrhea about one day into the week-long exercise.   Nothing the Medics gave me helped.   Every time we took a pause, I headed to the tree line.   After about two days of this, I was as weak as a kitten, chaffed, and damned uncomfortable.   When Steve drove up and stopped right next to me on the road, I begged him, "Buddy.   I have the shits so bad.   Could you carry the radio a while and let me drive, just until my stomach has a chance to recover?"

Steve looked at me with a little grin on his face and said, "They don't want Neely to carry the radio, they want YOU, FISHUGH!"

And, he drove off.

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